I just loved about memories of his first car. It truly set the wheels burning rubber in my brain about memories of learning to drive and the joy of freedom that came with it.
In the early 1960s, cars were NOT pretty, sleek models like the ones today, including pouffy little crossovers like my precious . They were big and bulky, often with heinous fins on the rear, lots of chrome and straight shift gears on the steering wheel.
I actually took up driving long before my 16th birthday. Just like all things in life, I learned a bit about it the hard way one Saturday afternoon. Having absolutely NO knowledge about steering a car, working a clutch or how to make the brakes work, I talked David Williams into letting me drive his blue Volkswagen beetle. He was shifting the gears, and we got a few blocks away before I wrapped it around a telephone pole at the corner of Milledge Avenue and University Drive. Cost my poor father $400…needless to say it cost me serious social restriction for about a month.
By the time I was 15, I was getting Sunday afternoon lessons from my not-so-patient father in the parking lot of Beechwood Shopping Center. It was a far cry from the lessons he gave me on how to ride a two-wheeler on the grass of the UGA practice field. The car – a 1954 Ford family sedan, puke green in color. Three speed on the column. More like a tank than a passenger car. But it got me started. Gotta give credit also to Mr. Miller, industrial arts teacher at Athens High, who also taught Driver’s Training – a course actually offered at school. Coordinating the clutch release with the depression on the gas pedal – NOT an easy thing for a short teenager to master -- was finally achieved after more choking than my dignity cares to admit.
My older sister Mary Gannon and I were actually given a green '56 Chevy to get us where we were going, saving our mother the agony of chauffering four children to countless places. This hotrod was a doozie and gave us a whole new thing to fight over. Her boyfriend, Govan Shockley, took the entire engine apart as a recreation project one weekend – it never really recovered. We finally wrecked it one times too many, and it was sold for junk.
I much preferred driving my grandmother, Meme’s, pale turquoise Impala to SAPS on Sunday afternoon. The color not only matched my eyes, but also the pack of Newport cigarettes that I had on the seat beside me. It had automatic transmission – quite a luxury. And yes, that would be me puffing on the menthol filter tips, while steering with one hand and playing like I was Miss Hot Stuff.
My senior year in high school, I really did crown myself Miss Hot Stuff aka Too Cool for School -- when that same grandmother, Meme, gave Mary Gannon and me a 1964 ½ Ford Mustang convertible! Yellow with white top, and three speed on the floor, white pleather bucket seats and an attitude in the glove box! Spoiled? Who me? Was it the most exciting thing in my life thus far? You better believe it! Suddenly all of my friends wanted to get out of Nancy Whitaker’s Chevy station wagon and hop into the coolest/hottest car in town…heading to The Varsity, the Lucky Wishbone, or just riding around the UGA campus “gazing” at the college boys on Sunday afternoons.
It would be in that same car that I got broadsided by a man running a red light on Lumpkin St. Minor injuries and a night at St. Mary’s thankfully were all I suffered. But my ducky little convertible was creamed. Somehow, it got patched up, and after heading off to school in Virginia, it spent its last days in the hands of my brother Rusty and his friends, among whom is the one and only Count Raoul himself! The Cool/Hot Car doomsday came when Mother sold it to the postman for $250. Sad day at the Gunn house. But she sure had her days of glory, and don’t think I didn’t know how lucky I was. Would give anything to have it today.
Just as the Count says – most everybody has a memory of that first car…keep sharing yours if you feel like it. Zoom! Zoom!